October 08, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, I had an opportunity to interview Jack Rooney, who as a 6-year old watched the 1929 World Series from his roof across the street from Shibe Park. I posted some of his memories in a piece I did for the Philly Post last week. Here are some more memories from Jack, who recently wrote a book about growing up in the shadow of Shibe called Bleachers in the Bedroom. We pick up the interview towards the end of the one in the Philly Post piece. I’ll have some more of that interview posted later in the Series.
PSH: I’ve always thought that Al Simmons isn’t really appreciated enough in Philadelphia. Do you think that?
Jack: I think that’s true. Winning the batting championship, hitting .360 or so, hitting 35 or 36 home runs, and playing excellent outfield. Even at the time, he didn’t get the credit he deserved. You know how Philadelphia fans have a tradition of booing some of their stars. Well, Simmons was no exception. They got on him. He had an unorthodox batting stance. Foot in the bucket type stance, and so they’d yell, “Al get your foot out of the bucket!”
He also looked relaxed when he played.He’d get to fly balls, but it didn’t look like he was exerting that much effort. He’d just lope over. He was fast but smooth. Whereas players like Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Cochrane were real intense. So they got cheered and he got booed. And then there was some ethnic things there. Simmons was Polish, his name was really Szymanski, and people got on that.
I remember Eddie Rommel was a star of the A’s. A star pitcher. A knuckleball pitcher, won 26 games one year. And he was still pitching, though not as effectively, at this time. I remember a game where he was getting hit around, and they started singing Bye Bye Rommel to the tune of Bye Bye Blackbird, and the whole crowd started singing. My father got mad. He said, “What kind of fans are these? The man won 26 games, and now they’re treating him like this.” I learned early that that’s what happens in baseball.
Did you go to a fair amount of games or mostly just watch from the roof?
Mostly watched from the roof. And of course you’re working too, so for example you parked cars, and if you told that person you’d watch their car, after the game, you want to be there so you can say, “I watched your car, Mister.” (and hope you made a little money).
As a 6 year old, I suspect you remember more of the excitement surrounding the Series than you do about the actual games themselves.
Oh absolutely. One of the things I remember, for example, during one of the the Series games, Tommy Leech and his wife came to visit. Tommy Leech is an old time ballplayer who played with the Pittsburgh Pirates and some other teams from about 1901 to about 1918. He was a star player, played in the first World Series. He came up, he regaled us with stories of what it was like in the old days, and he said, “Oh, the modern game isn’t as good as when we played. How many bases have they stolen?” And he criticized the A’s for not stealing many bases and just going for the long ball.
Who was your favorite player on that team?
My favorite player was a guy named Max Bishop, the 2nd baseman, partly because he was small and had a reputation for being a smart ballplayer. He led the league in walks and runs scored.
The Phillies were terrible back then. Did you know any Phillies fans or was most of the city in love with the more successful A’s?
Some of my friends used to tell me that the city used to divide among A’s fans and Phillies fans, and kids who were A’s fans would get in fights and arguments with Phillies fans, but in our neighborhood, they were all A’s fans. But my grandfather was a Phillies fan and that used to annoy my father, because he would come to the games, he and one of his friends, and got in free of course, and they would talk about much more entertaining the Phillies games were with Chuck Klein and Lefty O’Doull and they were better than Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx. My father used to get irritated. My grandfather used to enjoy doing that.
He was a plumber, and he’d be on the job, and when 1 o’clock approached, he’d tell the person, “I have to go back and get some tools” and he’d go over watch the ballgame, and when the game was over, he’d come back.
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